Jane Te Hira Remembered By Friends And Whanau

Aotearoa recently lost one of its most treasured sportswomen, when Jane Te Hira (nee Maxwell) ONZM passed away peacefully in her sleep at the Glenburn Rest Home in Auckland last Friday.

Regarded as one of this country’s greatest Māori wāhine athletes, Jane was famously known as Aotearoa’s first triple international sportswoman – having represented New Zealand in basketball, softball and hockey in her younger years. This included her inclusion in the Tall Ferns from 1953-55 as one of our country’s earliest women’s basketball national team representatives – although records from that period of time are sparse.

Jane lived most of her life in Tāmaki Makaurau, celebrating her 95th birthday earlier this month. Many of her plaudits came later in life, as she was inducted into the Māori Sports Hall of Fame in 2014 and made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit – for services to sport – in 2021.

Jane is survived by her five children – Moana, Tui, Reo, Michael and Wana and her many mokopuna and moko-mokopuna. Her grandson, former Tall Black Lindsay Tait, paid tribute to Jane, and the effect she had on both his life and his basketball journey.

“She was a massive influence for me; my mother was playing for Sydney when I was born and we moved back here [to New Zealand] when I was four years old; my father stayed behind to work in Australia at the time, so I pretty much lived with my grandmother,” says Tait.

“So I was raised around her in a very active environment and then with my mother and her siblings being from a basketball whanau, that all kind of played into how things panned out for me as a basketball player.

“My grandma was one of my biggest supporters for the entirety of my career, from the time I first picked up a basketball – when she helped coach me at that age – all the way through to my Tall Blacks career. She was even at my last [Tall Blacks] game back in 2018. She was just so supportive of me and all my cousins around everything we’ve been involved in over the years.”

Tait says that his grandmother was an amazing athlete and sportsperson, with sport a big part of the families lives over three generations.

“The story around the trap for years when I was younger was that she was an incredible golfer too, she used to play off the men’s tees – which at the time, being a female of Māori descent, didn’t always rub people up the right way, but that was how she rolled. She lived a really active, healthy lifestyle for so much of her life.”

Tait reflects back on his relationship with his grandmother and the values and lessons she instilled in him.

“These are the first days I’ve spent in my lifetime without my grandma here, and while I understand the mana that she walked with and carried and her accolades she achieved life, my relationship with her was very personal – my grandma was my queen.

“I believe she probably should’ve been acknowledged [for her achievements] a little bit earlier than what she was; it took until she was 93 years old to get her some of these acknowledgements, but for a young Māori wāhine to achieve the things that she did, and in the tough times she lived in was amazing – and most importantly, she did it all with grace and dignity.

“If I could take anything from my grandma – as I grow into a fully fledged man – that’s what stands out for me mostly; not only what she achieved, but the manner that she achieved it in.”